The Building Then…
The Arsenal of Philo, a famous archaeological site, characteristic of the naval history of Piraeus, was built by the famous architect Philo between 346 and 328 in the 4th century BC. It was an amazing building situated in Zea’s port, right behind the ship sheds (“neossikoi”) and was used as storage space for all the equipment of the Athenian fleet as well as as a repository of new materials to replace old, worn-out parts of the ship.
The Arsenal of Philo (123 meters long, 17 meters wide and 30 meters tall) was a two storey-building made of stone, divided into 34 chambers and had two entrances. The floor and walls were made of marble. The building’s orientation was such that it allowed optimum ventilation of all its spaces. Its storing capacity was for 200 ships, while different historical researchers estimate that the equipment of 400 ships could be stored in the Arsenal.
Being one of the most eminent public buildings, the Arsenal of Philo was meant to serve as a symbol of the naval dominance of Athens at the time.
The original building was burnt down by the Roman general Sulla in 86 BC. However, in 1988–1989 during excavations, the northern side of the Arsenal of Philo was discovered. Later on, another part was found and today it is lying under the road II Merarchias (Pasalimani).
Thanks to an inscription found in Piraeus in 1888 containing all the information concerning the construction of the Arsenal (dimensions, design, structure, materials used and budget) a model Arsenal was made and is on display at the Hellenic Maritime Museum.
Today, part of the foundations of the Arsenal of Philo can be seen at 170, Ipsilantou Street, next to Piraeus’ Cadastre’s Offices. This small yet remarkable piece of the once majestic structure is a testimony of the glorious past of the port of Piraeus lying right in the heart of the modern city.